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Medical malpractice: a shockingly common phenomenon

When you sustain a serious injury or become ill and need to go to the hospital, you expect that the medical professionals who treat you will take good care of you, and you soon will be back home and working at your job. Considering the number of excellent medical facilities in and around South Williamsport, Pennsylvania, your expectations are not unreasonable. You therefore probably will be shocked and appalled to learn that medical malpractice not only is commonplace, but is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., accounting for upwards of 251,000 deaths each year.

Medical malpractice occurs when a physician, nurse or other member of your health care team fails to care for you in accordance with the accepted standards of medical care and consequently injures you or, in the worst case, causes your death. Medical malpractice can occur at a hospital, an urgent care facility, a doctor’s office, a pharmacy or any other place where you receive health care advice and/or treatment. Common examples include the following:

  • Failing to diagnose your symptoms or misdiagnosing them
  • Failing to schedule appropriate tests and screenings and/or misinterpreting their results
  • Failing to monitor your progress
  • Failing to give you proper medical treatment
  • Failing to inform you about the risks of specific treatments or procedures
  • Failing to prescribe the proper medications

Common medical malpractice categories

In a hospital setting, medical errors generally fall into three categories: emergency room errors, diagnostic errors and surgical errors. Given that emergency rooms are very busy places, the various professionals who see you there may not communicate with each other as well as they should. Consequently, mistakes can happen. One common error is that your ER doctor orders you to undergo some specific tests, but that order never makes it to the appropriate people who conduct and interpret those tests. Another is that your ER doctor misdiagnoses your symptoms, delays your treatment or sends you home when (s)he should have admitted you to the hospital. Such errors can cause you to suffer a medical emergency such as a stroke, heart attack, pulmonary embolism or internal bleeding. In addition, you could develop a serious bacterial infection such as bacterial meningitis.

Medical errors often occur in the surgery suite as well, and include such things as the following:

  • Giving you the wrong anesthesia or the wrong dosage of it
  • Performing the wrong procedure
  • Operating on the wrong part of your body
  • Negligently prolonging your surgery
  • Leaving a foreign object, such as a clamp or sponge, inside your body
  • Using substandard intra-operative and/or post-operative procedures

Medical malpractice lawsuits

While not all medical errors rise to the level of medical malpractice, you may wish to contact a knowledgeable personal injury attorney with extensive experience in medical malpractice cases if you believe you are a medical malpractice victim. (S)he can evaluate your case and conduct the rigorous investigation necessary to determine if you have a valid claim. If so, you could receive compensation for your medical expenses and pain and suffering. If your doctor’s or hospital’s actions were especially egregious, you also could receive punitive damages.

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